The New Year is all about resolutions, change, and being better than the year before. So, it’s important that you think about 2018 not just from the vantage point of your personal goals, but also from a professional standpoint. In fact, when is the last time that you got in the proverbial weeds and carefully examined your freelancing practices?

Acknowledge your Failures

Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

What type of year was 2017 for you? What did 2017 teach you about freelancing? Where were your gaps? What areas need to be improved upon? How do you plan to move forward and embrace the new year?

For many of us, our best lessons are born out of mistakes, failures, or things that did not go as planned. Rather than seeing these failures as personal flaws or reflections of one’s ability, see them as opportunities to get better. In other words, acknowledge your failures and then leverage them to improve.

Once you have identified areas that didn’t go so well, step back and assess whether or not the failure was within your control. Was it preventable and is it correctable moving into 2018? Identifying the cause of failure with great certainty may be difficult to do, especially if there are other people involved. It’s much easier to shift blame to a team member, a peer, or someone/something else.

Honestly, it is not easy to acknowledge our role in goof-ups/mistakes/failures, but we must. It is only by holding up a mirror and paying careful attention to what reflects back at us that we can grow and improve.

Identify the Lesson

Before you can glean the lesson from the failure, you first have to acknowledge the failure and make sure that it was, indeed, a failure. Sometimes we are too difficult on ourselves or our expectations are unrealistic. For example, if your goal was to acquire 100 new clients in 2017 and you only obtained 75, is that really a failure or was your original goal too unrealistic for your market?

Looking at this through a reflective lens, one may discover that the original goal should have been 75 new clients based on the previous years’ successes, demand for the service, and one’s geographic location. The lesson isn’t that you failed by not obtaining those last 25 clients, but that your metrics need to be retooled when mapping out your goals for 2018.

Lean Into Discomfort and Then Get Right Back Up

My father had this thing about defeatist talk. Certain words, especially "can’t," were forbidden in our household while I was growing up. This forced us to problem solve, engage in conflict resolution, address our difficulties and define our problems without feeling powerless and homeless. This also taught us how to accept life’s punches without getting knocked out.

Ostensibly, I am not a fan of dwelling on your mistakes for too long. As soon as you have a grasp on what didn’t go well and why, it’s time to move on. Unfortunately, I have seen freelancers who have had bad years and who have wanted to throw in the towel, but, often, this was because they focused too much on the emotions that failure evokes and they didn’t think in terms of how to turn things around.

My point: Don’t give too much energy to what went wrong in 2017; instead, put new effort towards repurposing your goals or creating new ones.

2018: Here You Come!

To start 2018 off with great confidence and poise, map out your goals. In fact, write them down using action verbs. Instead of writing down, ‘make more money’ write down ‘generate 5 new contracts valued at $3,000 each.’

The key is planning and executing with clear, measurable benchmarks sprinkled along the way. Remember that all goals should be clearly articulated, specific, and realistic. By being focused and intentional, you can make 2018 one of your best years to date.

As for me, I can honestly say that 2017 was a year full of more questions than answers. And that, my friends, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Happy 2018, Freelancers Union!